Bears Overwhelm Huskies

There were fireworks on both the first and last plays of the game, but in the end, it was the same old tired result for Washington. The California Golden Bears showed their physical and mental superiority to the Huskies, by administering a crushing 56-17 defeat.

Under the watchful eye of California coach Jeff Tedford, California's juggernaut offense amassed 557 yards of total offense and averaged a robust 8.4 yards per play. JC transfer Joe Ayoob seems to have the earmarks as the next great quarterback developed by Tedford. Ayoob completed 17 of 27 passes for 271 yards and 4 touchdowns- and would have done far more damage had the Cal offense not turned conservative in the second half.

The first quarter started out with an action-packed twenty seconds that provided the afternoon with a sense of possibility. On the first play from scrimmage, Cal QB Joe Ayoob came out aggressive, throwing deep down the right side of the field. As Husky cornerback Matt Fontaine blindly defended the receiver, the incoming pass bounced off his helmet and into the opportunistic diving arms of teammate Darrin Harris. One play following the interception, Husky QB Isaiah Stanback dropped back and threw a perfect pass to a streaking Sonny Shackelford for the touchdown down the middle of the field. This play shocked and delighted the home crowd. But like the rains that lingered right up until kickoff (before dissipating and giving way to sunshine), so too did the enthusiasm in the stadium fade to naught.

After an exchange of possessions, the Bears came roaring back through the air. Cal coach Jeff Tedford showed total confidence in his young protégé QB Joe Ayoob, who had struggled so mightily the week before against Sacramento State.

Following a 25-yard run, (with running back Marshawn Lynch doing a Fred Astaire impression along the sideline), Ayoob began dissecting the Husky secondary. He threw the first four touchdown passes of his career, three of them to receiver Robert Jordan. At times, he showed inexperience in the pocket; but also showed the promise that earned him Junior College All-American honors a year ago.

At one point in the second quarter, an indication of Tedford's offensive play-calling genius was shown. Facing a 3rd and 24 yards to go, Ayoob dropped back in the pocket, but then pitched forward a shovel pass to the elusive Marshawn Lynch for a 26-yard gain. It was plays like these in which you could feel the air being let out of the Husky defense.

The only sign of life for the Huskies was born of a Stanback desperation heave downfield that was tipped and caught by Sonny Shackelford for a 45-yard gain. Four plays later, placekicker Evan Knudson calmly drilled a 45-yard field goal.

When the smoke cleared and the first-half onslaught was finished, Cal led 28-10.

The Huskies opened the second half with a quick start, driving 86 yards in 8 plays. The key play was an Isaiah Stanback 39-yard TD pass to Craig Chambers, who on a catch-and-run, glided into the end zone untouched with seeming effortlessness. The Bear lead was trimmed to 28-17. There was a slight stir amidst the crowd, conveying a sense of -- could the Huskies climb back into this?

California soon answered with a score of their own, as all winning teams manage to do. After an exchange of possessions, and with their star running back Marshawn Lynch sidelined with a fractured pinky finger, the Bears marched methodically downfield for their fifth touchdown of the day. This ended all lingering hopes for a Husky comeback. Tailback Marcus O' Keith took the handoff from Ayoob and gracefully veered his way into the end zone for six points. The Husky defense was fatigued and beginning to give way. You could see it on their faces in their collective body posture.

This game winded down in the same deflating manner as happened last week against Air Force. The Husky defense just couldn't provide staunch enough resistance. When the Bears needed six yards, they gained eight. When they needed twelve yards, they got fourteen. There was even one occasion when the Bears need 24 yards, and gained 26. Adding salt to the wound, California's 56 points was the most ever scored by an opponent in 84 years of football at Husky Stadium.

In the media room after the game, the faces of the Husky players all contained that same far-off look; of equal parts disillusionment, defeat and resolve. It is an ambivalent team that wants desperately to believe in itself, but doesn't yet know how.

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